Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work! Taught Me 16 New Things about Blogging

show your work

This is part of my Summer Reading 2.0 series.

I have a special place in my heart for the books that Urban Outfitters sells. I can buy ~4 books for the price of 1 skirt.

While I was there, I picked up Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work!, a bright yellow book that could fit into my tiny cross-body purse.

This book is intended for writers, artists, and anyone who has some sort of creative passion but feels trapped in an amateurish state. It’s a concise work that states simple truths in ways unconsidered.

For me, it eliminated many doubts and boundaries that my mind had constructed about getting myself out there.

It made me realize that a journal is not just a journal, but rather a sketchpad for portraying, or a drawing board for brainstorming.

I like Kleon’s language: straightforward. In Show Your Work!, he presents 10 arguments, each with its own subpoints, including interesting and relevant examples to directly address the way social media has become influential in the 21st century.

When I say the phrase “human spam,” what do you think? It’s a term that Kleon coined, meaning someone who continually spams others with his/her work but refuses to engage anyone else’s.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“I like to work while the world is sleeping, and share while the world is at work.”

The “advice” that he gives it not just different mindsets we should adopt, or ideas to remember. He provides actual ideas that make a difference, one of which is to create an actual website with one’s name. That is, no one wants to follow a blog called, and the same thing applies for Never Stationary, I suppose…hm…that makes me think…

He also addresses how to justify asking for money, creating a difference between making money off of your work and not being an immediate sellout.

Nonetheless, here are 16 things I took away:

1) The idea of the community vs. the lone genius myth: we live in an age where the interwebs makes the world 100x smaller than before, so our greatest contribution to the world is merely that, a contribution. We no longer have to lock ourselves away with just our mind. We have many resources at our fingertips to learn and grow, and we ought to use them.

2) Embrace the idea of being an amateur. When I read this, I was reminded of something that I wrote over a year ago, when I looked at myself and accepted, nay, embraced my identity as an amateur. An amateur has nothing to lose and a lot of room to experiment but has the same capacity to be great as an “expert”.

< Related: Embracing Your Amateurity >

Ask yourself today: are you an amateur, and are you okay with that?

3) Find yourself a voice. Find the angle from which you can stand on a soapbox and broadcast your voice. You’ll clear your throat and it will make people turn their heads.

What makes your writing unique, a voice so unheard of that no one can find it anywhere else?

4) Documentation is essential. It is not a matter of what you wrote today or yesterday, but perhaps something you wrote 3 years ago. Documentation of what you do can reveal consistency (or, gasp! inconsistency) as well as constant practice. This really matters, in a world where 90% of blogs are start-ups and abandoned within 2 months of their creation (I totally made those stats up, but it’s kind of accurate, I promise). It’s about showing yourself, and others your personal growth.

5) Process over product: process is, primarily, key to product. Sometimes, the excitement is not in shiny packaging and bows, but in pencil shavings and frustration that peeks out from a crumpled paper or the backspace button being pressed a million times.

Process reveals insight and in some ways, instruction, because it shows others how something is achieved, since the idea of “what” is often not enough.

People love to share this kind of stuff, so consider posting drafts of your work alongside a polished product.

6) Follow up on your work. Come back to an old idea, update your perspective. There’s an idea about the perfect amount of stock vs. flow a blog should have, stock being the posts that are timeless and people find through internet searches and whatnot, and the flow being the new things you write that are discovered through news feeds in real time.

The smart thing to do is to incorporate your stock posts into your flow posts, aka update your perspective. That will leave you with a delicate balance, what we all strive for.

7) He said this about one’s taste:

“Your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.”

What I’ve understood this to mean is that opinions are what people love and enjoy from the work you produce; your method of communication and ability to project it causes the positive response to increase exponentially. Successful people will find in their earliest days that good ideas have just gotten across badly.

8) No guilty pleasures! We should strive to find the good in everything. It is easy to dissect the works on the New York Times Best-Selling list, because it’s something that most people love. The challenge is taking something mediocre and finding threads of literary gold.

9) Personalize your work. No one wants an empty individual with an invisible profile; they want a name, or a face, or a personality at the very least. Your audience wants to know who you are, what makes you tick, and why you feel compelled to do whatever you are doing.

10) We are all in the process of learning, and we should share our progress. Remember, every time you learn something new, people want to know, so they can perhaps learn something new as well. Insight makes even the most plain lines of advice much more palatable…understandable.

Where do you get your inspiration? Create a list. Perhaps you have a stack of books that you plan to read over the summer…post a pic of their lovely, diverse spines.

People will respond – that’s the cool thing. The back and forth between passionate people regarding a popular subject is another way of learning in itself.

11) Embrace your community and its discussions. Respond wholeheartedly to comments and go out of your way to find people like you and connect with them.

12) Be able to accept criticism, and know what to do with it. A great deal of criticism is justified, and the rest is just personal. One person I know would go through my posts and rate everything 1 star. I was heartbroken  for a week, trying to figure out why someone hated everything I had to say. Then I realized that they hated me, not my writing, and then it turned into a different problem.

But people will either disagree with what you write or people will critique how you write – there is an important difference, though you can learn from both.

13) Think bigger, think bigger. A blog is not just a blog. It is a platform for reaching out to others. Think: change, progress, growth, expansion. Use your corner of the internet to make a difference in the world, highlight some injustice.

14) Stick around! Stay consistent! Do not quit; try to find inspiration in others, but yourself as well. He recommends “chain-smoking”: “Use the end of one project to light up the next one.”

15) But at the same time, know when to take a break. Perhaps a sabbatical is in everyone’s best interest. It’s like taking a well-deserved gap year. You’ll come back with a new perspective on life, writing style, and experiences to share.

16) Start anew: Maybe you’ve gotten bored because your blog focus has been the same for years. You life has changed but your writing doesn’t reflect that. You gotta…keep moving along, following your real-time life closely along…you gotta be…



  1. Pingback: My 7 Most Read Blog Posts: How Never Stationary Has Changed Over the Years | Catherine Zhang
  2. Pingback: Get Cultured With Me: Summer Reading 2.0 |

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